A look at the ‘alien enemy’ camps

We’ve been getting a fair amount of e-mail today about Youth Radio reporter Mara Fink’s report on her grandmother’s internment in a camp during World War II. Most of them has this message: It wasn’t just the Japanese-Americans.

“You should also cover the internment of both German Americans and Italian Americans,” wrote Arthur Jacobs of Tempe, Arizona. “They were held in more than 50 camps across this Great Land!”

Jacobs should know. He was held at Ellis Island and Crystal City, Texas. Jacobs was born in Brooklyn, but he’s of German descent.

Writer Robert Seward of Idaho says he’s working on a book about the Crystal City camp. “Ten out of eleven Japanese Americans were in all Japanese family camps like Manzanar,” he said today. “The eleventh was in mixed-race internment camps run by INS. Eleven-thousand German Americans and 3,000 Italian American were also swept into internment camps due to the same type of hysteria that swept up the Japanese. Thousands more Italian Americans were strongly encouraged to leave San Francisco under threat of internment. The Crystal City Internment Camp was about half Japanese and half German.”

Seward called our attention to this propaganda film about Crystal City called, ‘The Alien Enemy.’

Here’s an account of one German-American, Eberhard Fuhr of Illinois (he also lived in Minnesota as a boy), who described the camp in fairly favorable terms:

Update 4:04 p.m. The gentleman in the video above writes to us:

I lived in Edina seven years, before transfer. I was interned as a dangerous alien enemy at age 17 to 22 from 1943 until 1947, but I was German born, not Japanese with whom I was interned in Crystal City Texas. We lost our home in Cincinnati to looters/pillagers and finally foreclosure. Unlike the $20,000 each Japanese received, none of the 30,000 German internees received a dime of compensation. We neither broke any laws,or destroyed people or buildings. Our internment was not racial. What it was is for someone objective to determine. I can only guess surmise and remain puzzled. But to stay angry, bitter, or whatever, does little to move forward or to assuage the tangible and/or intangible losses. the loss to looters of a worthless photo of a grandparent,or a memento of no intrinsic value can be a priceless loss for my mother.

I would venture that I was interned longer than any Japanese, but then that means little.

I am forever grateful that I was able to matriculate Gustavus Adolphus, in 1948 earn freshman numerals in football in St Peter before I transferred to Ohio U.